ZACK WOOLFSON

CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your music, what would it be and why?

ZW: If I were to put it into a neat box, I guess you could describe it as Indie Folk! But Folk/Singer-Songwriter would be fine too! I describe it this way as its indeed inspired by my love for Folk music, but it wouldn’t necessarily be categorized as traditional folk, and it takes in influences from indie rock, pop and ambient styles of music too.

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

ZW: I recently started out with my solo project from a place of wanting to express myself from a deeper and more fragile place, so I would say that so far my inspiration is drawn from a deep and soulful place of where I am at in life since 2019 (when I wrote and recorded this Debut EP). But I also draw a lot of inspiration from walks outside, nature and writing in my journal. That includes the ocean breeze from my home country of Portugal to my local parks in East London.

CH.89: What made you want to start a music project? 

ZW: I’ve been involved in bands and music projects since I was 15-years old. I ran a Reggae band (I’m into a lot of different styles of music that’s for sure!) here in London after finishing my music college studies and learnt a lot about running a music project in a big city like London through that project, along with band dynamics and relationships. That was an amazing set of years learning the highs and lows of everything around running a project, but it also gave me a lot of frustration and emotional stress. Thus, it brought me to the place of finally wanting to put my own name onto a music project and start my 1st ever solo music project, which was a perfect opportunity for me to connect with my love for folk/singer-songwriter and general acoustic music.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?

ZW: Seeing as this is my Debut EP, it was about simply starting out with my acoustic guitar and trying to connect with myself and where I was at in my life. I decided to embark on my solo project in February 2019 and I had a 1-week break from my music-teaching work, and I treated it like a day job, starting every morning at my desk and just getting on with it. I wrote a lot of songs that week, and within a month or so I was off to my home city of Lisbon to record my Debut EP at the studio of my great friend and producer/engineer for the EP, who is known artistically as Benjamim (a well-established indie artist now in Portugal, who lived with me previously here in London). It all happened so quickly!

CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?

ZW: I want the listener to feel uplifted whilst listening to my music, but also know it’s OK to feel sad/melancholic and have bad days (along with the good ones). I want the listener to know they’re not alone, that one can be fragile and sad, and know it’s also OK to be in that place sometimes. I really want to be able to write music with a heart-on-sleeve and vulnerable attitude, but also be able to feel happy, upbeat and uplifted at the same time! A good example of this is my Debut single “Lone Island”. The subject matter was written from a really sad place, yet the music is almost the medicine to its lyrics in terms of lifting up its lyrics, almost giving the lyrics a head to cry on! I want to explore this concept a lot more as times goes on.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

ZW: This has changed drastically over time as I’ve been in London as an artist from being a student at music college, then living in a flat of musician brothers with more of a lifestyle of dudes always having a great time and having lots of house parties. I’m now in a more of a house with a balance of focus and calm and peace (basically a reflection of now being in my 30’s god forbid!), but we know how to have a good time too  More work and responsibilities, but in reality a lot more space to focus and write music compared to my days in my “bro bachelor pad”! It feels good!

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

ZW: I think both can work extremely well. I think for creativity, it’s nice to let loose and let inspiration guide the way sometimes. But, having a particular artist concept is great sometimes too! Track 1 of my EP, “Jump”, is a great example of that. I specifically wanted to write a song with a quiet vocal style on it in the low end of my voice, and that gave me great inspiration and the song flowed and was written in a day! So sometimes having a particular direction can allow for an artist to let loose and feel inspired within certain confines/set out ideas.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist? 

ZW: There’s been a lot of growing up and life lessons as the years have passed as an artist. 1 lesson through band/group-based projects is an essential: communication is key! I think members in bands are afraid of communicating where they’re at and what they want, as it’s a vulnerable thing to do, but in the long run, it will ensure everyone in the group is seen, heard and had their artistic ideas listened to and taken into account as well.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

ZW: Well, essentially yes. As one’s influences are part of shaping the art, they create, I think. If someone’s taste is somewhat questionable, then maybe the art they create might not be of the highest level. But maybe that’s just the music snob in me! Haha. Everyone has their own artistic taste.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

ZW: I think 1 of the hardest things is life balance. For me personally, it’s taken a decade living here in London to be at a place where I feel I have a good life balance between having time for my music and creativity along with working to earn money to pay the rent/bills. It’s not easy at all! I’m blessed to earn from music teaching now, so I feel like more of a full-time musician. But even then, the teaching is great, but it also isn’t what I ideally want to be doing as a career long-term. Saying that, I worked doing random part-time non-music jobs too for many years. My balance keeps getting better and better as time goes on. We all want to achieve the goal in the end of living off of our creativity and passion, but for most (besides a very lucky few) this takes time to get to that aim.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist? 

ZW: I would have to say, it’s the beauty of having an outlet for my thoughts, feelings and inspirations day to day! That’s a really beautiful thing to have at your fingertips. Many don’t have this luxury or haven’t given themselves the time to hone an artistic craft that gives them this. But saying that, expressing yourself creatively comes in many forms in this life.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?

ZW: Many! Too many to mention if I were to cover all the different styles of music that I’m into. But thinking of artists that particularly influenced and inspired me for this EP I would have to put M. Ward, Jeff Tweedy (from Wilco) and Yo La Tengo as 3 important ones.

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

ZW: That’s an interesting one. The fact that we have the power to listen to any song essentially at the tip of our fingertips on our phone is a crazy and beautiful thing! No one would have thought that would have been possible even 25 years ago! Also, the power to be able to create music and record it at home and upload it online on your own as an independent artist is amazing too. But on the flipside of that, it means we’re in a world with such an overflow of beautiful music being released out there (100 times more music being released each day compared to the old days for sure) also means its possibly harder to be seen and heard which can be a really frustrating thing! There’s good days and bad days as a musician in the modern age, and not an easy one to manage.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

ZW: As I said before, expressing yourself creatively comes in various forms. But to a certain extent, yes. An artist of any kind might be able to hone in and be inspired by day-to-day things with more ease than someone not invested fully in an artistic career. But that inspiration isn’t always there as we well know! We have our good days and bad days in terms of mood and happiness, and the same goes for feeling inspired. But yes, I really like having the outlook in everything I do of seeing things through an artistic lens.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city? 

ZW: Absolutely! I’ve invested a lot of my time living in London and haven’t travelled to as many sides of the world as I would have liked. But in the last couple years I have committed to a couple big trips: To the California coast for one, and 1 month before lockdown happened (lucky me timing-wise!) this year, Bali! I would go back to both any day. So yes, I do love traveling. Besides my home cities of London and my hometown of Lisbon, I would have to say Amsterdam is my other favorite city. One of my best friends lives there, and I know it very well as I’ve gone to be with him there many many times. Its slow-paced and just so relaxed compared to the London buzz! That’s really nice to have as a mini break 1-hour flight away from here, and really feels restful for a long weekend away.

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

ZW: I was never into reading at all you know! But I can proudly say I’m getting so much more into reading over the last couple years. I’ve already read 5 books this year, something I never would have been able to do ever! I used to just be into music biographies (surprise surprise), but I’m now into all sorts of books. I couldn’t say I have a favorite author just yet, but I recently read “Perfect Sound Whatever” by James Acaster. He’s actually a stand-up comedian, something I’m not into at all, and it really took me by surprise! It’s all about great albums from 2016, and how that helped him overcome a year where he was heavily depressed. The power of music is a beautiful thing, so I obviously connect with that. But it’s actually his hilarious life stories that I loved most about the book.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?

ZW: Absolutely, I plan to release a debut full album as my next big achievement musically. But in the short-term, the plan is to start playing concerts and promoting my Debut EP, something I can’t do yet which is frustrating! But we’ll get there. After that the plan is to get a backing band so I can play shows both in solo acoustic format and have bigger shows with the full band sound. I’m really excited to see what life brings!

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

ZW: It means presenting your creative thoughts and works to others, whatever form that takes! For a musician, that means creating music that you feel proud of and is personally representative, and then the beauty following that is sharing that with the outer world and letting them appreciate it and read into it in their own way. Both the creation, and the sharing of that creation (both through concerts and people hearing your recordings) are beautiful things. It can feel scary, but beautiful at the same time. But isn’t someone overcoming and facing their fears a beautiful thing? I think it is.

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?

ZW: I would have to say its music that’s deep and personal, that can be heard and perceived in different ways by the listener for them to make their own personal story from it. Depth, with an uplifting life outlook. I look forward to sharing more of that outlook with you!

Photography by: Catarina Neves/ @catarinaemsurdina

CHECK OUT MORE ON: ZACK WOOLFSON

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